Salem author's 'Lace Reader' puts the city in the center of its msytery

Staff reports

The book “The Lace Reader” was inspired in part by a piece of lace Brunonia Barry’s grandmother gave her years ago that was made by Salem nuns during the Depression.

Throughout her life Barry treasured the lace, packing it carefully when she moved and keeping it always on her bedside table. One night about eight years ago, during a time she and her husband were renovating their house, Barry had a dream about the lace.

“I dreamed I was looking through [it] through a wall we were going to demolish and saw a field of horses,” she says. “I woke up thinking, what does this mean? The contractor came in to demolish the wall and he said, “I hate this old horsehair plaster. It gets in the air and you can’t get it out…”

That got Barry, whose real name is Sandy, thinking, what if lace could act as a psychic medium like a crystal ball? What began as short story grew into a novel that Barry worked at for nearly five years while helping her husband Gary run their software gaming business. Finally, one day she told her husband she wanted to devote herself full time to her novel.

“He said when an Irish woman tells you something, you have to listen,” she jokes.

Later it was Gary who encouraged Barry to self publish the book. For years the couple had been running SmartGames, their software company, marketing games to large distributors. Barry jokes, the couple approached publishing her novel with the mantra “How hard could it be?”

 They paid to print 2,000 copies, dubbing their company Flap Jacket Press, and hired Marblehead based book publicist Kelley and Hall, who sent books to trade magazines such as Publisher’s Weekly. The strategy worked. Publisher’s Weekly gave the book a glowing review and, weeks later, books began flying off the shelves. From there it was only a matter of months before big name publishers were wooing the couple. In the end Barry sold “The Lace Reader” and a second novel to HarperCollins. Barry declined to give a price tag, but sources say she received a $2 million deal.

These days the 57-year-old Marblehead native, who’s known as Sandy to family and friends, is busy fielding calls from Hollywood movie agents and the media. Earlier this week in an interview with WCVB’s “Chronicle” at her Salem home, the first-time author was amazingly at ease.

“I keep wondering when I’m going to wake up,” she smiled, adding that readers are beginning to recognize her on the streets of Salem.